The End

This book is now complete.

To get an overview of it, please use the ‘Contents’ button at the top of the page (where you can see chapter headings and sub-headings) and then navigate by chapters, or simply use the chapter titles in the right hand column of this page.

18.3 And So?

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 18: Secure in Ongoing Change

18.3 And So?

Closing Examples

Whatever the outcome can we, the Lord’s people, remain true, secure in our God. May Shadrach and his two friends be an example to us (Dan 3:17 ,18) If we are thrown into the furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it and he will rescue us… But even if he does not, we… will not serve your gods.”

Similarly while we wait on the Lord can we hold true like Habakkuk who was also secure in his knowledge of the Lord when he said, Though the fig tree does not bud and there be no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there be no sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” (Hab 3:17,18).

Here were men who were totally secure in their God. They knew that whatever the outward circumstances of change that were there, in the end they would triumph with God.

And Us?

And so as we press on into the twenty-first century, how will we go?

  • Will it be fearfully as aliens in a strange land, unsure of their position, unsure of their role, unsure of their destiny, or
  • Will it be as aliens in a strange land yet with the confidence of being children of God, secure in His love, regardless of what the future holds, because we know Him?

As we live in this hostile world,

  • Will we retreat into ghettos, holding a defensive position, fearful of every aspect of ‘worldliness’ of this rapidly changing culture, or
  • Can we stand with heads held high, not afraid of the culture in which we live but purposefully impacting it as children of God, recognising what is good and applauding it, identifying what is bad and denouncing it, speaking truth with love, being salt and light to bring change where we are?

Generally in life,

  • Will we focus on our own healing and personal comfort, our own needs, wants and desires, or
  • Will we reach out, secure in His love, to the hurting and alienated of our society, to the fearful, shamed and abused, to the violent and the abuser, to bring them the healing love of Jesus?


These are the key questions that face us in the early years of the twenty first century.

Our answers will depend on how much we have allowed God to speak to us and make us a secure people. Can we become a secure church, secure in our God?

THE END … OR… THE BEGINNING

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18.2 Three Pictures

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 18: Secure in Ongoing Change

18.2 Three Scriptural Pictures

1. Daniel

Does the picture of Daniel represent where we are today? There do seem a number of things in the life of Daniel that apply to us today:

Carried into Exile

The first thing we know about Daniel was that he was carried off into exile and put into an alien environment that was out of his control (Dan 1:1-7). In a very real sense, those of us that lived as Christians through the latter half of the twentieth century have indeed found that our environment has changed, we no longer feel in control and it is definitely an alien environment.

A Decision to Remain Different

The ruler of Babylon and his followers did everything they could to make Daniel and his friends conform to the ways of Babylon. However Daniel, by the grace of God, determined to remain true to the standards God had given him (Dan 1:8-21) and in fact stood out as healthier and wiser than all those his same age.

The call for us as Christians is not to take on board the pluralistic, humanistic, godless, amoral thinking of the age but to remain true to the truth that has been conveyed to us by God through the Bible. If we will do that, we will stand out as a healthier, wiser group of people who will be seen as a refuge from the chaos all around us.

Impossible Demands Requiring Supernatural Help

Very soon afterwards Daniel is placed in a place of great threat as the ruler makes demands that cannot be met by mere human beings. When he is threatened with death he turns to God and receives revelation. We live in a world of great expectations. Governments increasingly place demands on public services, health and education, demands that seem impossible to meet. Demands will be put on the church, demands that will conflict with our moral standards, demands that would compromise our righteousness, demands that may produce persecution. In the face of that the church will have to become again a truly supernatural body, receiving revelation and power and grace from God, to survive and to triumph.

2. Jeremiah

The latter days of Jeremiah’s life have also been suggested as similarly conveying truth about our position as Christians today.

Jeremiah Carried Away

Jeremiah had been God’s man on the spot in Jerusalem through the last days of that city while it was under siege. When the city was taken, Jeremiah was released by the invading conqueror (Jer 39:11-40:6). After a period of civil strife the remaining remnant asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord’s will for them. They disregarded his counsel to remain where they were and instead took Jeremiah with them to Egypt (Jer 43:4-7). Despite this Jeremiah continued to bring the word of the Lord to them, even though they continued to reject it. The last we see of Jeremiah, this faithful prophet of God, is him still bringing the word of the Lord to these unfaithful people now in Egypt.

Our Call Today

There is, likewise, in many today in the U.K. and the U.S.A., a sense that we are part of a nation that has lost its inheritance and is now far from what it was. There is a sense that we have been carried away into a completely different alien environment from that which many of us once knew. Yet even in this alien environment we are still to be a light to the people whatever the eventual outcome of the nation. There are those who are prophesying revival, there are those who are prophesying God’s total judgement. Whatever the outcome, we are still to be God’s witness, His voice to this people. Within this there is a call to perseverance, to remain true to the One who called us from the beginning, a willingness to be a witness and a voice from God to the ungodly.

3. Elijah

The final picture is of Elijah after he has had his conflict on Mount Carmel

I Hear Rain

The prophets of Baal had been dealt with and Elijah turns to Ahab and says, Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of heavy rain.” (1 Kings 18:41). Now we have to remember that there had been three years of drought and there had been no rain. The land was in a terrible state. The sky is blue and there is not a cloud in sight, and the prophet says, “I hear the sound of heavy rain”! Ahab might have paused and thought, “Well I don’t. There’s not a cloud in sight. There can’t be rain. We haven’t had rain for three years. He’s flipped!” But prophets hear things ahead of everyone else! Elijah hears it; it is as good as here.

Go and Look

As soon as Ahab has left, Elijah prays. His servant stands nearby wondering what to do. Elijah looks up and says, Go and look toward the sea.” The servant goes and there is nothing. It is still a bright sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. He reports back to Elijah but the prophet just says, Go back”. Seven times he told him to go back and the last time the servant sees a tiny cloud on the horizon. Soon the clouds fill the sky and a heavy rain pours down.

And Us?

For the past fifty years or more we have had people praying and prophesying about revival. In the last decade of the twentieth century in particular there were lots of prophesies that revival was soon coming…. and yet…..

But the prophets heard the rain. Why is it that so many have had this very real sense that revival is virtually upon us. What happens when we prophesy about a future event, for us who are prophesying it? It is almost as if we are actually in the thing so it seems so real and so present. We simply have to understand that the thing is still yet a way in the future.

We are in the days of the seven times. The prophets HAVE heard the rain, it IS coming. We have just got to be faithful in looking for it. While we are waiting we are to remain true to Him, we are not to loose heart, we are not to become cynical and unbelieving, we are to make ready, and keep on making ready for when He comes in sovereign revival power. There is a call to perseverance, a call to remain true in the face of a declining nation.

18.1 Coping with Change

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 18: Secure in Ongoing Change

Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath (Heb 6:17)

In the previous chapter we considered our eternal destiny, yet before we fully enter into that we have yet time to live out on this earth. In this final chapter I want us to consider again the question of the changing world in which we find ourselves, a world which so often seems so insecure, a world that seems to force itself and its values upon us. Can we, as Christians, be secure in this constantly changing world? There are various matters we need to consider before we complete this book.

“Change is here to stay”, some wit said many years ago in what was to become one of the most repeated comments of its time. Yet it is true and still many of us find a deep worry when change takes place, and it is constantly taking place, which means that many of us are constantly worrying! It seems right, therefore, to finish this book on becoming a secure Christian by considering some aspects of change and how we may remain secure in the face of them.

18.1 Coping with a Changing World

The Fact of Change

In 1970 Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock expounding his theory, postulated five years earlier, about “the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.” In other words future shock is our inability to cope with tomorrow arriving today!

In the late 1990s Patrick Dixon wrote Future Wise with the opening words, “Either we take hold of the future or the future will take hold of us.” In other words, if we don’t take control of what is happening, the speed of change will overwhelm us and leave us behind.

These two men pointed out the incredible changes that have taken place in our society in the past century, more than in the whole of previous human history put together, and then the changes that are taking place and will take place in the immediate future. Never before, they maintain, has mankind been put under such stress in having to cope with change.

A Decaying Society

Those of us who have witnessed the last fifty years, have witnessed a moral downward spiral in the West, a moral downward spiral that has had practical effects at every level of society. In an earlier chapter I did paint a general picture of this under the heading, “An Insecure World” and so I won’t repeat that here. The ensuing problems of our society are enormous. The health services and social services are under siege and cannot cope with the deluge of health and social problems we find in our society.

Why is this? I would suggest the principle behind this is found in Paul’s letter to the Romans where he declared, after having said how mankind turns away from God, Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts”. When mankind pushes God away, God simply steps back and removes His hand of restraint to allow the ‘natural’ consequences of a sinful world to follow. In the latter half of the twentieth century we have watched the ‘natural’ consequences of an unrestrained sinful world unfold.

Thus we now consider acceptable, behaviour and practices that fifty years ago would not even have been spoken about – and we have all the negative effects that go with them, and foolishly wonder why. I often think that a characteristic of ‘Sin’ is ‘stupidity’, for in no other way can you understand the stupidity of decisions made by government and society in this period of time – and the church has largely remained silent.

Changes in the Christian World

Over this period of time we have observed a number of changes in the Christian world:

  • In the sixties and seventies the charismatic renewal movement came into being.
  • In the seventies in some parts was the flowering of the faith movement.
  • In the eighties came the prophetic movement.
  • In the nineties came to so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’, the Alpha movement and the birthing of Christian TV in the U.K.
  • In the new century came struggles to cope with post-modernism and reaching out to transform communities.


Yet despite all these bursts of life in the Christian church, the moral standards of the Western world have continued to fall and it would appear that the church has failed to be salt and light to the surrounding society. In the
U.K. traditional denominations have continued to decline with only the new streams and occasional denominational church seeing growth.

The Effect of Change on Christians

The effect of this on the Christian community, I would suggest, is varied and the following are some of the feelings generated in many:

i) Life is out of control (That God is out of control?)

Such big forces are at work that we now no longer have any say in life, in society, in our world.

The result for many is that they have withdrawn from the arena and left the high ground to the pluralistic, materialistic and humanistic thinkers and communicators of the day.

ii) A sense of chaos and confusion.

In the work place, flexible working has meant that many Christians are now required to work hours that do not allow them to be around on Sundays or at midweek meeting times. For many this has meant an undermining of their faith which was built more on meetings than on God.

iii) A sense of being marginalised and impotent.

As Christianity has ceased to be the main religious plank in the nation’s life, Christians increasingly feel they are just one player in a market place of religion

iv) A sense of disillusionment that stems from:

a) Church disappointment

  • failure of long hoped for revival to occur
  • the coming and going of a number of ‘revival manifestations’ apparently without long term effect
  • failure of much organisational evangelism to produce large scale and lasting fruit

b) Church impotence to stem the tide of

  • moral decline in the nation
  • social disintegration
  • occult growth of dynamic proportions
  • other religions’ growth and acceptance in the West
  • crusading atheists being given the high ground by the media.

v) Hope is maintained by some

  • in the relatively few large flourishing churches
  • in organisational ‘project’ evangelicalism
  • in large Christian conventions,

yet still as the Church we fail to have national impact.

Where is God?

For many, in their disillusionment, the heart cry is:

“Where is God? Why hasn’t He come with revival? Why, when there have been such waves of prayer for revival, or prophetic outpourings declaring ‘It is coming’, hasn’t it happened? Why, despite our praying and all our efforts, have we made so little impact in our nation?”

The tendency for many has been to give up. For some it has been to abandon church. For others it has been to try new forms of church. In what follows may I suggest three scriptural pictures that may be relevant to our position today?

17.5 And So?

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 17: Secure in God’s World

17.5 And So?

In this chapter, we sought to just get a glimmer of the wonder of God’s provision for us, the wonder of ‘life’. We’ve also observed how sinful man abuses that provision, but it is still a wonderful provision.

We’ve observed that provision in terms of

  • our senses
  • our self awareness
  • our creativity and ingenuity and inventiveness
  • all of which are gifts of God to us.

At the end of it, the challenge to us must be:

  • do we appreciate this wonderful provision as God’s love to us?
  • do we thank Him for it?
  • do we use it wisely and well?

17.4 Invention & Creativity

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 17: Secure in God’s World

17.4 Invention & Creativity

One more area that needs our attention in this chapter is that of modern science and technology. Again, Christians are often very defensive about science and technology and can be negative about every new ‘invention’. Let’s just pause and clarify some of these words we are using:

Science = the study of the world through observation (very simple definition!)
Technology = the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes

Now, neither of those words has a moral aspect to it. Both of them are entirely neutral.

Yes, the outworking of them both in sinful hands could be both sinful and harmful. Carrying out scientific investigation by using human slaves would be morally wrong. The creation of germ warfare to harm multitudes of innocent people is morally wrong. So, yes, yet again, man can take a God-given gift and abuse it and use it wrongly for wrong.

But that doesn’t make the gift wrong, the gift of creativity, of invention. Consider the staggering range of possibilities here – the ability to write, create stories, create poetry, create music, use raw materials to make other materials (e.g. cotton to make clothes, timber to make furniture), to design buildings, to invent machinery, to produce life saving drugs – the list is endless. These are just starters.

Each of these things above, are abilities given to human beings, are the things that make us human beings and distinguish us from animals, are things that bring pleasure and well-being to mankind. Does God frown on our creativity? Well when it is godless and denies Him, yes. But when it brings well-being to mankind, no!

We live on a staggering planet with incredible resources, including those of our own mind and body. Were they given by God but not to be used? Of course He wanted us to use them. In the way we do use them? Much of the time surely not! Can you imagine a world without any weapons? Can you imagine a world where drugs simply made you well and were not addictive?

So why did God give us such dangerous potential? Because anything is potentially dangerous in the hands of sinful mankind, and everything is potential for good in the hands of the wisdom from God. But there is the problem. Because we choose to live our self-centred lives with little reference to God so we drive machines that pollute the planet, we use materials that cannot be replaced and only cause further pollution problems, and we play at genetics with little thought for the psychological consequences!

Yes, we have all these misuses of God-given gifts that make us upset, but let’s not lose sight of the wonder of those gifts themselves. Let’s rejoice in the wonder of the artistry of painters or musicians, the creativity of architects or landscapers, the insights of the researchers who bring health, as well as the care and compassion of those who bring health care in so many different ways.

In the midst of terrible news about train crashes, floods, terrorist atrocities, global warming warnings and sinful activities of every shade and hue, let’s not lose sight of the wonder of God’s incredible provision of this planet with all of its variety, all of its wonder, and all for our enjoyment.

Imagine if you will, a family of children who, at Christmas are all given wonderful presents wrapped beautifully in Christmas paper and pretty coloured string. Some of them say, “Oh we mustn’t open the presents, they’re just for looking at.” Others tear the paper off and cast the present aside after a few minutes. Others snatch the presents that are not theirs. Some just play with the string. And all the while none of the children go to their parents and say thank you. What an awful picture! Yet, that is not so far from what it is like sometimes with God’s world and us.

If everyone else fails to appreciate the wonder of God’s loving provision, may that not include us! If others carelessly use God’s provision, may that not include us!

17.3 Self-Awareness

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 17: Secure in God’s World

17.3 Self-Awareness

Another area that Christians sometimes feel guilty about is that of self-awareness, but the reality is that this is how God has made us! Is self awareness equated with Sin? Well yes, but only as far as it seemed that when Adam and Eve sinned, the first thing they became aware of, was themselves! (Gen 3:7) Thereafter, every single human being has that tendency, to be self aware. But is that a bad thing?

Well, like everything else it can be both good and bad. In itself it is not bad. When Paul was instructing the Romans he said, (Rom 12:3) Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement.” Another way of putting that might be to say, “Be aware of yourself and see yourself exactly as you are.”

Self awareness is also vital when we are being led by the Spirit. How does that leading come? It comes within our consciousness. The person who is not aware of this misses what is going on within them, or writes it off as just, ‘thoughts’.

The reality is that we rely upon self awareness all the time. We get hungry and so look for food. We get thirsty, so look for drink. We get tired, so make time to rest. We get ideas, so make plans. In all these ways, awareness of what is going on in us, prompts action.

The Psalms of David are classic examples of frequent self awareness, perhaps no more so that Psalms 42 and 43 where he speaks to himself –

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? (42:5,11, 43:5)

It’s as if he is aware of what he’s feeling and basically says, “Cut it out! Lean on God!” Self awareness is good when you can identify when all is not well – as long as you then take steps to do something about it.

Self awareness, of course, should be distinguished from introspection, which is the constant dwelling on your own needs to the exclusion of all else. Introspection is another form of self-centredness which is very different from self-awareness.

Self-centredness makes self the all important thing in life, to the exclusion of God and the exclusion of other people. Self-awareness is simply the awareness of yourself but in a completely neutral, observing way.

What about the Biblical New Testament concept of “dying to self”? This is simply the commitment to put God and His will first, before your own will. Hence Paul could say that, our old self was crucified with him(Rom 6:6) meaning the old sin motivated person we once were, has died when we were born again and made new by God.

In fact the main teaching of Paul speaks about us having died to sin (Rom 6:2) and he says consider yourselves dead to sin(Rom 6:11). So the teaching about death is actually death to Sin not death to your present self. How can we say that? Because so often Christians, in this mistaken belief that they are not to think about themselves at all, just feel guilty when they are aware of themselves and, even more, they don’t reflect on the wonder of who they actually are today.

Humility which we are told to have (e.g. Lk 18:14, Eph 4;2 etc.) is a real acknowledgement of what we are like – which, as we’ve shown earlier in this book, means recognising our frailties, weaknesses, imperfections etc. AND how wonderful we now are as new creations of God, His children, temples of His Holy Spirit.

So, get a right balance. Self-awareness is what God has given you. Like all the other God-provided, good things we’ve spoken about above, we can over use it, which simply turns it into self-centredness which involves the exclusion of God, and is sin. But if you don’t do that, rejoice instead in the wonder of who you are, the person God has designed you to be, the person you are on the way to becoming!

17.2 Variety & Enjoyment

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 17: Secure in God’s World

17.2 Variety & Enjoyment

Staggering Variety

Have you every wondered WHY God made things with such staggering variety? It seems to me that there are probably only two likely reasons. First, because He is a Creator-God, He simply ENJOYS variety! How can a God who is Spirit (Jn 4:24) create and enjoy a material world? I don’t know, because I don’t really know what ‘spirit’ is!

Second, because we are made in His likeness (Gen 1:26), He has made this world like it is for OUR enjoyment! How many thousands of different varieties of fruit or vegetables are there? How many staggering recipes can we invent? Stop and think about this for a moment – some very obvious thoughts, but then we miss the obvious in the hum-drum of life!

Taste

Have you every thought about taste? God could have given us a tasteless palette, with just an urge every six hours, say, to stock up on energy. But instead what did He do? Gave us a full spectrum of taste – salty, sweet, bitter sour – and so you ‘like’ some things more than others. So why do some of us feel guilty about enjoying food? Possibly because we lack the self-control we need to prevent us becoming gluttons? Possibly because we feel bad about those who are starving in the world? Possibly because we recognise we’re ‘comfort eating’ to make up for some other lack in our lives? Here is God’s wonderful provision and we can’t enjoy it because of other ‘fallen’ aspects of our lives.

But don’t lose the wonder of it all. If you live in the West, go and walk around a large food store and give thanks to God for the staggering variety of foods that He has given us – purely for our enjoyment!

Smell

Have you ever stood outside (or inside) a bakery while they are baking bread? Have you every stood near a machine that is making fresh coffee? Perhaps for you there are a number of other ‘super-smells’ that are wonderful. Those two rate high on my smell spectrum. Do we ‘need’ smell? Most of the time, no, it just enhances and makes more enjoyable the food we like. That is what is so amazing, that the vast majority of smells give us pleasure! (Oh yes, there are the unpleasant smells of life as well, but rejoice in the good ones!)

Touch

We could be creatures with little sense of touch, but no, we have an amazing sensitivity so we can distinguish between the hard smoothness of rock, the soft fur of a rabbit, the smoothness of polished wood… and so on. Again, so many of the things we feel with our hands are for pleasure, God-given pleasure.

Hearing

Then we come to that amazing sense that comes alive when our eyes are closed – our hearing. We can hear a pin drop, or a waterfall’s roar, the squawk of a bird, the scream of a predatory animal, the buzz of a bee, or the incredible varieties of music. And all this is for our pleasure!

Sight

What are the colours of a rainbow to a blind man? How many shades of blue are there in the sky or the sea? How many shades of green are there in nature? How many colours are there in the country in Autumn (Fall to the Americans!)? Why so many colours to the fish in the oceans where hardly anyone sees them? To say anything about colour or shape or design is but to place a drop in the ocean.

Beware Familiarity

Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. Familiarity with taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight means we take them for granted, these senses given to us by God, mostly for enjoyment. Yes, they do have very practical purposes but the range of uses of each of them goes far beyond the purely utilitarian. The vast majority of uses of these senses bring pleasure – and people are stupid enough to say that it is just pure chance (materialistic evolution), or that God is not concerned with pleasure!

17.1 Celebrating Life

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 17: Secure in God’s World

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:4)

17.1 Celebrating Life

Looking Back

Once I became a Christian, I found myself in the evangelical fold of the church, and later the charismatic-evangelical fold. I am grateful for those early years that majored on the word of God and the means of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Nothing I say in this chapter detracts from that, yet when I look back on those early years, I realise that at that time (and I believe much has changed in many quarters) the faith we had, had a legalistic edge to it which I now realise made me very defensive in the face of the world.

I remember, as a young Christian, going on a week’s training course for my job at that time, and being very insular. While others we’re helping the Bar profits each evening and, in the case of some, building illicit late-night relationships, I stood afar off, maintaining my purity – and utterly failing to be salt and light!

The fold I found myself in was in the way of ‘no drinking, no dancing, etc.’. Our lives were full of prayer, Bible Study, evangelism, meetings! Without realising it we were a subculture in our world that was as divorced from reality as you can be and, as I’ve said, we were defensive in the face of the world. Indeed, it may be that that is where you are today and you wonder why I’m speaking as I am in what may appear to you as a derogatory manner about this form of evangelicalism.

Please read on. Give the chapter a fair read. It’s a chapter about creating or recreating awareness of the wonder of God’s provision of this world, so that we can enjoy it wisely and without guilt, and be a thankful people.

Where the World is

The apostle Paul was quite specific about certain behaviours, for example:

Eph 5:3,4 among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking

Eph 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.

Yes, this is where the world is and Western TV totally disregards the three verses above. So it is right that we as Christians DO abide by these verses!

God’s Creation Abused

We’ll consider God’s creation more fully in a moment, but have you ever considered what Sin actually is? Yes, the Bible describes it as lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4) which is really a casting off all restraint or, if you like, taking what God has provided and using it more than it was designed for. Consider the following:

God provides for us: food, drink (including alcohol), drugs, sex, and material things.

What do we do with each of these?

Gluttony leading to obesity
Drunkenness leading to alcoholism and bad health
Drug addiction and crime
Immorality, adultery & perversion leading to sexual illnesses
Greed, covetousness, leading to theft, corruption etc. etc.

Please notice in passing, the things that God provides are GOOD things in themselves, good when used in moderation. Food and drink are for our health AND for our pleasure (see later), drugs are to restore health, sex is for procreation AND enjoyment (see later), and material things are to help us live AND enjoy living in God’s world (see later).

So what does the world do? It casts off all restraint in the name of freedom and creates a terrible world, instead of the world which God designed to be wonderful! In the part of the twentieth century that I grew up in as a Christian, much of our thinking had an ancient Greek flavour to it that separated spirit from flesh, so we saw spirit as good and flesh as evil.

A Need to take hold of the truth

But that view is not the Biblical, Hebrew view. All good gifts are from heaven above (Jas 1:17) but the world abuses and misuses them and harm ensues. So much of our defensiveness in the past has been because we have not appreciated the full Biblical view of God’s creation. So often we have reacted against the world’s abuses and failed to provide a good alternative, one that is worth emulating.

So often we have been timid in the face of the world and have not declared the truth. When Paul was instructing Timothy about being courageous in speaking out the Gospel, he said:

2 Tim 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline.

But this also applies to any area of the truth. We are not to be timid, which has tones of fearfulness about it. We are instead to be clear in our thinking and our understanding and not afraid to speak out the wonder of the truths that the Bible brings us. In this case the truth in question is that this is God’s world, designed by Him for our pleasure (see below) and when we use it wisely and in relation to Him, then it is for our blessing and for the blessing of the world.

There is so much provision on this planet that we could easily feed the entire world’s population, but instead, because of Sin, we have millions dying of hunger. If the entire world took on board the Old & New Testament teaching of “love your neighbour”, we would have a very, very different world. (Yet we have to say that a well-fed world will not be sinless this side of heaven – but that is not an excuse to not care for the rest of the world!)

To recap, this world is God’s world and He designed it and gave it to us for our enjoyment. A number of years ago at a leadership Retreat, the Lord gave me a picture. In this picture, we leaders were in a theatre and were up on the stage, performing. The rest of the Christians were in the body of the theatre looking on. Suddenly there was a shaking and all the scenery on the stage started falling down. Suddenly, everyone was on the stage. And then the walls fell outwards (there was obviously no ceiling or roof falling down) and the people all spilled out into the surrounding area, and the Lord spoke to me and said, “I am taking down the walls between my church and my world, for this is my world and I’m coming to take it back through my church.”

Now don’t misunderstand that. The church is still to be distinctive, holy, righteous etc. but God’s intention is that His people be in His world to be salt and light as Jesus told them to be (Mt 5:13-16), revealing an alternative culture, one of which is worth being part, which gains the favour of the people (that’s a radical thought!) as was seen in the revival of the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:47). Yes, the enemy may rise up in reactive persecution, but God’s blessing on God’s people, brought favour!

Personal Testimony: An Art Gallery

I believe it’s very easy to be blind to the truth of Scripture, even when we’re Christians, sometimes because of the wrong teaching we’ve received previously, and sometimes because we over-react to the abuses we spoke of above.

Some years ago I had an experience that I can only attribute to the Lord – judge for yourself. I was on one of my earliest trips to Los Angeles and was there for several weeks. While I was there, my host provided opportunities for me to go out and about to see the sights. One of those was a visit to the Paul Getty Museum, a wonderful new building. I didn’t particularly wanted to go, but didn’t want to offend my host, so I allowed him to send me out for the day to this Museum, with some of the young lads from his church as guides.

When I was a lot younger, in fact before I was a Christian, I had lived and worked in London and had ‘done’ the two main art galleries at that time, the Tate and the National. I had vaguely enjoyed the experiences but could not say that art was something that thrilled me.

Now, many years later, I am being taken to this art gallery. We walked through the sculptures and I nodded appreciation but when we went into the rooms full of paintings, something strange happened. I found myself standing in front of one masterpiece muttering to myself, “Wow, that is incredible, that is amazing, wow!” I couldn’t move away from it. The lads with me were showing signs of wanting to move, so I moved to the next painting, and the same thing happened. I was seeing these paintings with an appreciation that I’d never had before. But more than that, after a half an hour I was feeling drunk – simply from looking at paintings. How could these men paint like that?????

Personal Testimony: The South of England

Six months after my trip to America we were visiting relatives in the south of England and had been taken for a walk over the rolling hills above Eastbourne. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze. Suddenly I was aware of the same thing happening to me. As I walked I found myself thinking, “This is amazing, this in beautiful, this is incredible, wow!” and again I had that feeling of being drunk. The materialists among us may be saying, “Oh it was just the fresh air!” but you would be missing the point; it was the staggering appreciation of the wonder of the beauty of God’s creation.

Mind enhancing

On both occasions it was as if my mind was enhanced – and no, there were no drugs involved! Have you ever noticed how different the world looks when the sun comes out? On a grey, cloudy, dull day, there are colours but watch what happens as the sun comes out – brightness, contrast, immense beauty. I wonder if it is like this in the way we perceive God’s world. Sometimes everything seems very ordinary and then something happens and it’s as if we see with new eyes. Sometimes it needs a life threatening disaster – major sickness, major accident, or whatever – for us to realise the wonder of ‘life’!

16.5 And So?

Becoming a Secure Christian
PART 3 : Personal Security (Theory & Practice)
Chapter 16: Secure in facing Death

16.5 And So?

What have we been saying in this chapter? We have spoken about

Facing death

  • something that will come to every one of us
  • yet something not to be feared by Christians
  • merely a door into heaven and eternal life

Facing the Path to Death

  • the path is not always easy, yet God’s grace is always there
  • God’s grace to cope only comes when we need it
  • we may not be able to visualise it, but it’ll be there when we need it
  • the way we die can be a means of glorifying God
  • that may be before people and before the angelic watchers.

Facing Judgment

  • we’ll all have to stand before God as failures
  • yet, as Christians, we’ll be received as God’s children, joyfully

Facing Eternal Life

  • this is life that starts now but never ends
  • yet when we die we pass into a new phase so much more glorious
  • dying for the Christian is simply going to sleep
  • when we wake we’ll be in heaven with God
  • that will be life beyond our wildest dreams

You are a Christian? You know it? You know it is not because you are nice, have done good, or attended church? You know you are what you are, a child of God, only because of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary? You know you are what you are, a child of God in whom the Spirit of God lives? You know that you are fully loved and accepted by God? Then also know that the eternal things spoken of in this chapter are yours as well. Rejoice in your future. It is glorious!